In the United Kingdom, we all know about Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party. We have seen his impact on our political system in our messy exit from the EU, while his active support and defence of Donald Trump indicates his backwards attitude towards minorities and multiculturalism in general. From UKIP’s founding in 1993, the party and its leader has played on and utilised growing fears on immigration and disillusionment with politics, which has spread throughout Western countries. Its success in this environment, at first a concern, is now a terrifying premonition for many of what the future might have in store. However, Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party of Australia offer a vision into what the future of UKIP may hold. There have been legitimate parallels between Farage’s behaviour and Trump, but this can be explained by society’s present situation. Hanson’s past, on the other hand, is similar enough to Farage’s present to suggest that it could well become his future – and so should be a greater concern for us than we currently perceive.
Both Hanson and Farage are bizarre characters with masses of tenacity. Founding One Nation in 1997, Hanson has been outspoken throughout her political career, dismissing her critics and refusing to submit to defeat, even after being convicted of electoral fraud in 2003; a charge that was dismissed on appeal. Much like Farage, she is recognised as much for her eccentricity as for her controversial political views, participating in the 2004 competition of ‘Dancing with the Stars’, exiting as the runner-up of the season. However, both politicians also rely on a universal desire for support: the idea of unity. The names of their parties convey images of strength, freedom, stability, and cooperation – not to mention nationalistic patriotism to one country and one set of ideals. In a period where distrust, instability, and fear appears all-pervasive, an apparent retreat from this has been welcomed in both the UK and Australia.
The core issue with this is that Farage and Hanson are exacerbating these negative emotions whilst appearing to offer solutions to them. This is not to say that either of them are manipulating voters in order to get into positions of power: indeed, the alarming thing is that they appear to genuinely believe in what they say. Farage’s ideas around this have been well-documented, including his remarks on being unable to hear anyone speaking English on the tube, and UKIP’s recent posters on immigration, both of which give the impression that the country is overcrowded with people unwilling to assimilate to ‘British values’, a vague term which means little but seems impressive all the same.
Hanson has reflected similar ideas over the years, from claiming that Australia was ‘swamped with Asians’ in the nineties, to taking aim at Muslims and their ‘ideology of hatred’ incompatible with similarly elusive ‘Australian values’. Not only this, but One Nation and UKIP are also both willing to present the outside ‘other’ as a credible threat to national security. Speaking at a Reclaim rally in 2015, Hanson expressed her horror that each person present was a potential ‘target’ for terrorists, in spite of the fact that this ‘potential’ is a risk of one in twenty million; in other words, non-existent. This is on a par with the Leave campaign’s leaflets that included a map of Europe coloured red, with black arrows pointing from each country’s resident populations to the UK, and, without apparent reason, Syria and Iraq shaded in pink with their populations added too. The ideas – whilst fear mongering – are clear: our country is under threat, and we are the only ones who can help you.
One Nation and UKIP are both willing to present the outside ‘other’ as a credible threat to national security.
There is, of course, the seemingly obligatory accusation of media bias in addition to all of this. Donald Trump was not doing anything new when he claimed that the US media were seeking to damage his bid for presidency. Farage and Hanson have done exactly the same in the past, advocating the idea that themselves and their parties were not receiving fair coverage, either in elections or in everyday politics, both claims occurring as recently as 2015. Unhelpfully, the suggestion that even politicians are conspiring to keep them out of the establishment are harder to disprove. Cameron’s disastrous pledge during last year’s election to hold a referendum on the EU was an attempt to prevent far-right Tories from voting for UKIP, who at that stage was a credible threat to the Conservatives. Comparably, Australian parties during the 1998 election made preference deals designed to keep Hanson out of the House of Representatives. With distrust of politicians at an all-time high, events like these will only fuel voter anger at the establishment, and provide validation and further support for One Nation and UKIP.
So, with all this in mind, what next for Farage and UKIP? As interim leader, Farage is not set to fully retire for some time yet, and if he hopes to succeed, he would need to ensure full party unity in whatever lies ahead. This was the problem Hanson faced, the internal divides between herself and her lieutenants, plus an inability to use any influence within the senate to achieve their agenda, causing One Nation’s disappearance from the political sphere in the early 2000s. However, having gained four seats in the senate in the 2016 election, One Nation are squarely back in the public eye. Having ensured solidarity within her party, and with politicians now having to treat her political aims seriously, Hanson, for now, appears to have been successful in rectifying past mistakes. Farage and UKIP, too, need to focus their attention on a successful transition between ‘outside’ critics and ‘inside’ policy-makers, free from in-fighting and fresh political scandals. Their political extremism can only become a threat if, like Hanson, they accomplish this.